- Drinking is massively popular in Australia, and ingrained in our culture. From BBQs to binges, we drink the most in the world (if you don't count Eastern Europe).
- Drinking isn’t as sexy when your head is in a bowl, your bum is in the gutter and your memory of the good times is completely gone. Do this a few times a week, every week and the fort really starts to crumble.
- There are a bunch of simple 'routine modifications' to drink less, drink smarter or not drink at all. A good place to start to get your weekends back, save a few pennies and live a longer, healthier life.
Alcohol is ancient fun
Booze has been around since ancient times, lubricating social interactions. 'Dutch courage' has been the catalyst behind plenty of long-term (and short-term) relationships – just ask your folks if they were sober when they met.
How does it work?
On a functional level, it is a sedative, reducing our inhibitions and also our brain activity and muscular coordination.
It’s the Australian lifestyle
Let’s face it. We drink with everything we do in Australia; dinner, footy, sun, BBQs, beach, camping, games or funerals. It’s an Aussie thing. It feels natural to loosen our ties and kick off our boots with a XXXX or VB.
Problem is, it can be hard for some people to know when their ‘loose unit’ reputation is truly legendary, or actually getting a bit sad. Is grog the cherry on top of a good night, or is grog the night itself?
Reasons to cut back
As you get older, or find someone you're really quite serious about, the upsides of alcohol fade down and the downsides fade up – don't worry about feeling boring, it's completely normal. Time changes people's priorities (and their physiology too).
- Start kicking career goals
- Get on top of life admin on weekends
- More varied / fun weekends
- Save money
- Feel healthier and lose a few kilos
Stages of drinking
We do stupid stuff when we’re legless. Seen the video of the Hoff eating cheeseburgers in his Las Vegas hotel room? Or Shia LaBeouf chasing guys down the street and getting arrested (again)? Or rugby league?
The buzz zone
Grog is so attractive because it helps us to forget work and life stress. They call it ‘a buzz’ – the sweet spot after 1 or 2 beers.
Your muscles relax, you’re feeling confident, guards are down and you’re ready for anything.
The danger zone
This is where the problem starts.
A lot of guys don’t know when to pull up stumps and the more they drink, the more they lose control! So maybe you’re a loud drunk, an angry drunk or you’re saucy when you’re pissed. Regardless, it’s safe to say you aren’t thinking straight. And sometimes people get hurt, physically and emotionally.
As an added bonus, you might not remember anything the next day. You’re feeling like death warmed up; the mixed meat kebab lingers on your breath. And you’re desperately reaching for a servo Powerade.
A wise man once said that drinking is "borrowing happiness from tomorrow."
As you get older, the dry-mouth, throbbing skull and stomach-lining nausea gets worse after a night on the tiles. What makes matters worse for young men is that life gets more complicated as you age too, so it becomes harder to allow for days when you're not at your best – think a presentation at work or grandma's birthday.
Hair of the dog
The ‘hair of the dog’ actually works, we know, but it's just delaying the inevitable.
As Homer Simpson says: “here’s to alcohol: the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems”. Specifically:
Booze is burning a hole in your pocket. The Australian alcohol taxes don't seem to stop many people from loading up at pubs and clubs, and you're paying through the nose. A few rounds on a Friday night can easily cost as much as what you spend on a whole week in lunches.
Alcohol is affecting your devilish good looks, making you appear older than you are. We've all met a few red-nosed gentleman at the pub look about 30 years older than they actually are.
Alcohol (and the mixers around it) are also fattening, with all the good work of your weekly nutrition down the train after a baker's dozen beers on the weekend.
It’s also setting you up for liver and heart conditions, migraines, diabetes, bowel cancer and chronic stress.
How much is too much?
There’s nothing wrong with a few cold ones on the weekend. We firmly believe that everything in moderation is the best recipe for a fun, varied and well-informed lifestyle.
Just be aware of the line, and how it's kinda foggy. It changes for everyone, and it really depends on what kind of personality you are.
The line between teetotaller (non-drinker) and regular blackout drunk is foggy. I mean 57% of men might not realise they are ‘heavy’ drinkers or binge drinkers. And for the record that’s:
- sinking more than 4 standard drinks (a pot/middy of beer = 1) in a night, and
- more than 14 pots in a week
Levels of addiction
If you’re pulling stunts like LaBeouf’s multiple times a week, then there’s likely a big-bad-bender habit and you might need to consider whether you’re looking down the barrel of alcoholism (or addiction). And there’s a few levels:
- Alcohol tolerant - you need to drink a lot more than you used to to get ‘the buzz’.
- Alcohol dependent - you’re shaking, irritable or can’t sleep after a day off the booze, and booze is the only way out.
- Alcohol abuse - you crave alcohol all the time, piss off your mates cause you’re a grubby drunk, spend all your cash on booze and you’re way behind at work.
If this sounds like you, or you just want your weekends back… read on.
How to reel it in
Here’s a few cruisy starting points to get going:
- Eat before you drink, and while you’re drinking
- Drink a glass of water in between every standard drink
- Drink red wine, which is sipped and harder to binge on
- Have a boatload of water before go to the pub and after you get home (I call it the 40 gulps technique - drink 40 full swallows of water before hitting the sack).
- Load up on Berocca or Hydralyte the next day to rehydrate
- Don’t leave alcohol in the house. Encourage people to take leftovers home after a session and resist the urge to keep an ‘emergency stash’.
Don't worry about what others think
Because alcohol consumption is socially driven, you need to reach a point where you're comfortable saying NO to an invitation, or feel like you need a drink to fit in.
Remember alcohol is not the only thing that makes you awesome, and you can be charming and charismatic in your normal state.
The main thing is to reach a level of confidence where you don't give a shit about what anyone else is thinking. For that, you require a reason...
Set a goal
Samuel L Jackson will tell you that he was on the money in his career. He had a good reputation, but one thing got in the way - grog. “And once that was out of the way, it was— boom! The door blew wide open.” Think of what you could do with the money, time, and clear head. Prioritise this now and get started.
You won’t change things overnight. But nobody does. For help setting a clear goal, check our Purpose and Motivation Guide.
Psychologists call it the HALT syndrome. When you’re Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired, you’re most likely to reach for a cold one. So you’ll have to use your mighty willpower to think about what is it you actually want? A ripper chicken parmy? Or a good night sleep? Solve that problem before you reach for a drink and it might just quench the craving.
People that drag you down
Likewise, if good old Sam and Hugh are heavy hitters, they probably always will be. And they’ll likely drag you down with them. Now, it’s unlikely you’d avoid them altogether. But choose wisely when to see these people you know are danger zones.
Set your limits
Make a decision at the start of the night what your limit is. Then tell everyone. You can either pull up stumps after a few and switch to soft drink. Or stretch your limit and have water after each froth. It might seem weird at first but you’ll last longer and not spend as much.
Avoid buying rounds
Shirk the shout and buy your own drinks. Buying in on rounds boosts your tally fast ! And costs an arm and a leg. Get on the front foot and head straight to the bar. Again, let everyone know you're not in. Opting out (even for every second round) will mean you can pace yourself, without getting FOMO.
If your willpower is down once you’re out, another option is abstaining (not drinking) for 5 nights a week and picking 2 nights you can have a few.
101 Tokens is an awesome Australian program designed to teach you to pick and choose the moments you drink. You get 101 tokens, or drinking days, per year. It's a great way to retrain your thinking.
Febfast / Dry July / Oscober
Yes, all these ideas are fine on paper. But when push comes to shove, and the boys are pushing you into 'just one more'. It’s gonna be tough to turn them down.
Starting your mission during ‘Febfast’, ‘Dry July’, ‘Ocsober’, etc is great because you can tell everyone you’re really on a mission for good! And then you’d say: “well, I actually just felt really good and a saved heaps of cash. So I’ve kept it up and only drinking on the weekends” (or whatever).
If you're having trouble sticking to the plan, check out the Australian initiative Hello Sunday Morning and their app Daybreak which coaches you to track goals and stay motivated.
If everything you do with your mates revolves around what time happy hour hits or the footy schedule, then it’s going to be hard to break the trend. Don’t stop hanging out with the boys, but you’re unlikely to sit back and watch everyone getting wasted around you.
Suggest an activity that doesn’t involve alcohol - camping, hikes, the nets, a movie or an escape room. Who knows?! The boys might be secretly thanking you for saying what they’re all thinking.
For some people reducing their intake is near impossible. If safe drinking habits aren’t an option, then you might need to consider quitting altogether.
Don’t do it alone
Whether you’re abstaining or reducing, don’t do it alone. If alcohol is hitting all aspects of your life, talk to your doctor or a professional to manage withdrawal symptoms; panic attacks, the sweats or mood swings. You might prefer to go cold turkey. But it’s not always safe if you’re a heavy hitter. Sounds grim, but the professionals can also refer you to rehab centres to get yourself in shape so you stay on track.
Talking to your mates is also sensible as they might be fighting the same battle. Another option is finding an AA meeting and talking to other people who have had the same troubles.
It’s a huge leap to break old habits. But try something new, be smart with how you spend your time, and take small (but important) steps to clear your head and get your life back.